Music of the Spheres with the Las Vegas Philharmonic

Music Of The Spheres with The Las Vegas Philharmonic
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Composers have long described the natural world in music: Beethoven wrote his sensual “Pastoral” Symphony, Stravinsky the tempestuous “Rite of Spring,” Led Zeppelin the “Misty Mountain Hop.” (You may have different examples.) Few, however, can surpass Gustav Holst’s spectacular suite, The Planets, performed tonight by the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Excluding the earth, and written before Pluto was designated the ninth planet, this work comprises seven movements describing the seven other known planets as they relate to classical mythology. Each movement is distinct in style and, according to the composer, not related to the others musically. However, the chosen sequence makes for a very moving and unique musical experience.

First things first, of course. Great orchestral performances normally start with overtures, and English composer William Walton’s Johannesburg Festival Overture set a lively, upbeat tone. Written for the South African capital’s seventieth anniversary in 1956, the piece is full of melodic European optimism, flavored in the middle with a pulsating percussion passage drawn from traditional Zulu music.

Although Sir Edward Elgar composed his Cello Concerto in E Minor around the same time as Holst wrote most of The Planets, Elgar’s piece reflects more earthly matters — namely, the horror of the Great War that had just ended. Appropriately, the Philharmonic’s guest soloist for this piece was the expressive virtuoso Daniel Gaisford, who sat directly facing the audience to present the drama of this concerto.

Until the twentieth century, European wars were largely affairs of honor in which small royal armies did battle far from the cities. A few soldiers were lost on each side, and the public rooted for their sides like distant soccer teams. World War I, with its industrial-strength killing machines, changed everything and gave the continent a sense of lost innocence. Elgar’s concerto is a lament for a bygone age, filled with sad, sweet passages throughout its three movements. Even the final “allegro” section is utterly devoid of the optimism we heard in Walton’s overture.

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- By Robert LaGrone, Las Vegas Entertainment Editor. Read Jetsetters Magazine at

About the Author

Robert LaGrone, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Entertainment and Classical Music Editor. Read Jetsetters Magazine at

Robert LaGrone